Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Here are some thoughts by Jim Bishop (from The Day Christ Died) and G. K. Chesterton (from The Everlasting Man).

"A greater contrast could not be imagined than the lax, indulgent, highly civilized life of Rome, and the strict life of Palestine where every last detail of daily living was regulated by the law of a stern religion. Yet these two worlds must have figured with equal importance in the mind of Jesus as he spoke parables to teach the people, and these two worlds joined to pronounce the most important death dentence in the history of man."

-- Bishop p.244

"For the central history of civilisation, as I see it, consists of two further stages before the final stage of Christendom. The first was the struggle between this [Latin] paganism and something less worthy than itself, and the second the process by which it grew in itself less worthy."

-- Chesterton Ch.VI: The Demons and the Philosophers

"There is a very real sense in which the Christian is worse than the heathen . . . or even the Roman potentially worse then the Carthaginian. But there is only one sense in which he is worse; and that is not in being positively worse. The Christian is only worse because it is his business to be better."

-- same

". . . certain anti-human antagonisms seem to recur in this tradition of black magic. There may be suspected as running through it everywhere, for instance, a mystical hatred of the idea of childhood. People would understand better the popular fury against the witches, if they remembered that the malice most commonly attributed to them was preventing the birth of children."

-- same

"Very various and incompatible were the things that could be loved by the consuls of Rome and the prophets of Israel; but they were one in what they hated."

-- same

"The civilisation that was centered in Tyre and Sidon was above all things practical. . . . They believed, in the appropriate modern phrase, in people who delivered the goods. In their dealings with their god Moloch, they themselves were always careful to deliver the goods."
-- same

"There is a religious war when two worlds meet; that is, when two visions of the world meet; or in more modern language when two moral atmpospheres meet. What is the one man's breath is the other man's poison; and it is vain to talk of giving pestilence a place in the sun. And this is what we must understand, even at the expense of digression, if we would really see what happened in the Mediterranean; when right athwart the rising of the Republic on the Tiber, a thing overtopping and disdaining it, dark with all the riddles of Asia and trailing all the tribes and dependencies on imperialism, came Carthage riding on the sea."

-- VII: The War of the Gods and Demons

"What strikes us in the Italian cults is their local and especially their domestic character. . . . We have a vision of a god of roofs and a god of gate-posts, of a god of doors and even a god of drains. It has been suggested that all mythology was a sort of fairy-tale; but this was a sort of fairy-tale which may be truly cfalled a fireside tale, or a nursery-tale; because it was a tale of the interior of the home . . . "

-- same

"But the worshipers of Moloch were not gross or primitive. They were members of a mature and polished civilisation, abounding in refinements and luxuries; they were probably far more civilised than the Romans. And Moloch was not a myth; or at any rate his meal was not a myth. These highly civilised people really met together to invoke the blessing of heaven by throwing hundreds of their infants into a large furnace."
-- same

"Before the gates of the golden city Hannibal fought his last fight for it and lost; and Carthage fell as nothing has fallen since Satan. The name of the New City remains only as a name. There is no stone of it left upon the sand. Another war was indeed waged before the final destruction: but the destruction was final. Only men digging in its deep foundations centuries after found a heap of hundreds of little skeletons, the holy relics of that religion. For Carthage fell because she was faithful to her own philosophy and had followed out to its logical conclusion her own vision of the universe. Moloch had eaten his children."


"Nobody understands the romance of Rome, and why she rose afterward to a representative leadership that seemed almost fated and fundamentally natural. Who does not keep in mind the agony of horror and humiliation through which she had continued to testify to the sanity that is the soul of Europe? . . . It is not for us to guess in what manner or moment the mercy of God might in any case have rescued the world; but it is certain that the struggle which established Christendom would have been very different if there had been an empire of Carthage instead of an empire of Rome. We have to thank the patience of the Punic wars if, in after ages, divine things descended at least upon human things and not inhuman."

-- same

"Europe evolved into its own vices . . . but theworse into which it evolved was not like what it had escaped. Can any man in his senses compare the great wooden doll, whom the children expected to eat a bit of the dinner, with the great idol who would have been expected to eat the children? That is the measure of how far the world went astray, compared with how far it might have gone astray. If the Romans were ruthless, it was in a true sense to an enemy, and certainly not merely a rival.

-- same

"Many moderns have insisted on the smallness of that Mediterranean world; and the wider horizons that might have awaited it with the discovery of the other continents. But this is an illusion; one of the many illusions of materialism. The limits that paganism had reached in Europe were the limits of human existence; at its best it had only reached the same limits everywhere else. The Roman stoics did not need Chinamen to teach them stoicism. The Pythagoreans did not need any Hindus to teach them about recurrence or the simple life or the beauty of being a vegetarian. In so far as they could get these things from the East, they had already got rather too much of them from the East. . . . It is essential to recognize that the Roman Empire was recognized as the highest achievement of the human race; and also as the broadest. A dreadful secret seemed to be written as in obscure hieroglyphics across those mighty works of marble and stone, those colossal ampitheatres and aqueducts. Man could do no more"

-- VIII: The End of the World

"There was nothing left that could conquer Rome; but there was also nothing left that could improve it. It was the strongest thing that was growing weak. It was the best thing that was going to the bad."


"Jesus was crucified. He faced the Holy City for the last time."

-- Bishop, p. 297

"Mary of Alphaeus said she did not want to leave. . . . Mary Magdalen sat down beside her. Both leaned against the stone.

"It had been a long day. A very long day. There was much to remember; and some would remember it this way and some would remember it that way. Much of it had been done in secret, in spite of the public execution, and it would be weeks before the news reached the small towns of Galilee and the settlements east of Jericho.

"The grief among the followers of Jesus would be poignant, a volatile fuel which, in its own fierce flame, burns itself out quickly. They did not understand. (For a moment in time at least, they could not understand.) To their way of thinking, this was now a tragic defeat. It was not.

"It was victory beyond their most exalted imaginings. He had come her to die. And he had died. He had come to preach a new covenant with his Father, and he had preached it. He had come to tell man that the way to everlasting life was love -- each for the other, each for him, and his love for all -- and he had proved this by laying down his life in a torrent of torment -- for them.

"He did not die particularly for the Jews, or for the Gentiles. He died for man. All mankind. He came to Palestine to lay the foundations of his new covenant because he and his Father were dissatisfied with the old. The Father had never made a covenant with the Romans, or the Greeks or the Egyptians. He had made it, through Moses, with the Jews. . . . If a new covenant was to replace the old, it would be negotiated with the same people.

"That is why he had to die in Palestine; that is why, of all the cities in Palestine, he had to die in the Holy City -- the city of his Father. The high priests rejected him and plotted against him and killed him. The people didn't. The people were looking for the Messiah, waiting eagerly. And, although Jesus did not fit their conception of a resplendent Messiah clothed in clouds of glory, they were willing to listen. They did listen. The people were of good heart."

-- pp. 317-318

"The two Marys sat with their backs to the stone. They loved him and, in their love, they missed the enormous triumph; the new promise; the good news.

"They did not even notice that the sun was shining."
-- p. 319

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